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Let's Go For a Drive: Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

With summer (hopefully) just around the corner, many of us may find ourselves going on a vacation or road trip and needing (or wanting) to bring our dog(s) along. Having grown up taking 13-hour car rides from Chicago to New York or Atlanta with a full car and a dog, and 8-hour car rides between school and home with a dog, I have learned what does and does not contribute to a comfortable, safe ride with your furry friend. While all dogs react to car rides differently, there are many small tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to satisfy any dog and make the car ride bearable for everyone.

Let’s start with a checklist of items to keep in the car:

  • A small spare stash of food, treats, and water

  • Travel bowls

  • First aid kit (animal and human friendly)

  • Poop bags

  • Backseat dog sling

  • Blanket, toy(s), pillow(s), and/or bed from home

  • Dog crate

  • Towel

While you should always bring enough food for the length of the trip plus a few days, I find it convenient to bring a small container with food, treats, and water. I recommend hiking/travel cups for dogs; the cup is divided into dry and wet storage for food and water, and typically comes with a collapsible bowl. Keeping food, water, and a small first aid kit will come in handy in case of small emergencies or unexpected overnight stops. While first aid kits are good to have in general, having animal safe items in the car is a major plus. I’ve had great success in having a full-length backseat sling (when it’s just him in the back) and placing my dog’s crate in between the front and back seats (this works best if you have a sedan), helping to keep him from moving back to front with ease. Also, please don’t drive with your dog on your lap, no matter how small or young. Accidents happen, keeping your dog off your lap while driving can be the difference between fine and not fine. Always keeping a collar with tags on the dog(s) is very important in case they manage to get loose without a leash. No matter how well trained your dog is, always have them on a leash.


Bringing a bed, blanket, pillow, or toy can help relax your dog, especially if they tend to get anxious during car rides. Personally, my dog enjoys jumping back and forth and side to side and barking at everything that moves; I’ve solved this by getting a brand-new bone for him at the beginning of each road trip or using vet approved and prescribed sedatives. Anxious dogs may have movements and sounds which distract the driver, creating dangerous driving conditions. Learning how to keep them occupied and calm throughout the drive is a must.


Other things to consider are a dog’s bladder and ability to tolerate long car rides. Regardless of when you need to stop for gas or food or restrooms, your dog will most likely appreciate a stop to potty and stretch roughly every four hours. Putting out a bowl of water at every stop typically tends to hold them over until the next stop. Keeping them on their regular feeding schedule is important as it may help reduce anxiety during longer trips. Having treats on hand and rewarding positive behavior will help reinforce the behavior, making future trips easier.


Dogs, like humans, can suffer from motion sickness. This can lead to them being miserable for the entirety of the drive…and a smelly and/or costly cleanup for you. If you know your dog suffers from motion sickness, consult with a vet on medication options and doses.


These suggestions will do wonders for not only your dog’s comfort and safety, but yours as well! I hope you learned something new today! 😊


Tayler – C.A.R.E. Volunteer

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